Vacation photos can help save endangered animals • Earth.com

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According to new research by the Imageomics Institute At Ohio State University (OSU), vacation photos of various animals such as zebras or whales that tourists post on social media may have an unexpected benefit: They could help scientists track and gather information on endangered species.

By using artificial intelligence (AI) programs to analyze photos of animals from publicly shared social media posts, researchers can identify and track individuals and better understand their movement patterns and trends. broader demographics.

“We have millions of images of endangered and threatened animals taken by scientists, camera traps, drones and even tourists,” said Tanya Berger-Wolf, director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute at USO. “These images contain a wealth of data that we can extract and analyze to help protect animals and fight extinction.”

Given that one of the biggest challenges facing conservationists today is the lack of data on nearly half of the 142,000 species found on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Speciesthe initiative of Dr. Berger-Wolf and his colleagues is a crucial step forward in clarifying the status of a large number of threatened species.

“If we want to save African elephants from extinction, we need to know how many there are in the world, and where they are, and how fast they are declining,” Dr Berger-Wolf explained. “We don’t have enough GPS collars and satellite tags to monitor all the elephants and answer these questions. But we can use AI techniques like machine learning to analyze images of elephants to provide much of the information we need.

Along with her research team, Dr. Berger-Wolf created a system called wild book, which uses computer vision algorithms to analyze photos taken by researchers in the field, as well as tourists on vacation. These high-performance AI algorithms can identify not only species of animals, but also individuals. For example, Wildbook currently contains over two million photos of approximately 60,000 uniquely identified whales and dolphins from around the world.

As well as offering precise information about when and where the images were taken, these photos can aid conservation efforts by providing population counts, birth and death dynamics, species range and details regarding animal social interaction patterns.

“The ability to extract biological information from images is the foundation of imageomics. We are teaching machines to see things in images that humans may have missed or cannot see,” Dr. Berger-Wolf concluded.

She recently discussed these advances in using AI to analyze images of wildlife in a presentation to annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

By Andrei Ionescu, Terre.com Personal editor

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